Van Dusseldorp's Future of events (5)

This week: The Wild Romance, the next best thing & when TV meets events.

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Hello, dear 543 subscribers of mine!

Monique van Dusseldorp here, with a few more meandering thoughts on the future of events. Bear with me!

In this issue, let’s talk about ‘‘the next best thing’’, and how this can grow into a new category of its own. But first! Memories…

When I was 14, we were the biggest fans of Herman Brood & his Wild Romance. 

There was no internet, remember? 

We played the one record we had, again and again, spent many hours waiting for new music to be played on the radio, and paged through music magazines without buying them to see if there was any news.

And once or twice - how lucky could you get! - we witnessed a rare performance on TopPop, the first regular dedicated pop music TV show in the Netherlands.

It’s not that TopPop had any live music: the acts just lip-synced their songs. And if an act could not make it to the show, they showed dancers doing a rehearsed dance.

Videoclips had not been invented yet, or perhaps I should say: they were being invented on the spot. TopPop offered the ‘‘next best thing’’ to witnessing a live performance by putting the stars in a specially designed decor, with a scripted act, light effects, the girls dancing, surprising camera shots, quick edits, and more...

Or not. The ‘’Saturday Night’’ recording above shows Brood and his band just sitting around, for the most part, drinking and reading the newspapers

Back to 14-year old me. One fabulous day, we found out that Brood and the band were going to play in ‘‘de Pul’’ in Uden, and you know what, Uden is just 50 KM away from my hometown! We were overjoyed! Of course, we were going to buy tickets and see the band! Right? 

We were 14. None of the adults were willing to drive us there. There was absolutely no way we could take the bus and be back in time. And it was too far to go by bicycle (we did consider the option). We were stuck. And we were devastated. I very clearly remember how unfair it all felt.

We could not access the world we wanted to be part of. TopPop was all we got.

Well, Monique, why on earth would you bring this up in a newsletter on the future of events? 

If you love going to events - conferences, concerts, theatre shows, anything - the online version of it is so very disappointing. Online, the event is just another video stream. It is no longer an event.

Entering the venue, the physical anticipation, the crowd you see around you, the interactions after the show - sure, a video of a talk will get the content out there, but really? The difference can be so stark it makes you wonder why organizers bother at all.

But see this from the point of view of the 14-year-old. If there is absolutely no way to go, and suddenly you can be part of an event that you love, or be part of a conversation you want to be part of - that is a different matter. You just got yourself a digital ticket to the world.

And once that happens, the ‘‘next best thing’’ can evolve into a category of its own and reach a far bigger audience than you could ever imagine. Lip-synched pop songs birth video clips, live streams of conferences become online gatherings, and much more.

We are all 14 years old now, under permanent lockdown.

We cannot access the world we want to be part of. Let’s see what this means for events: today I have three examples for you! Theatre, music, business.

A post shared by Emilie Randoe (@emilie.randoe)

Kings of War - how to attract a new audience

Like any other theatre anywhere, ITA (International Theatre Amsterdam) had to close down under the present lockdown rules. ITA decided to go online, and after a few months of preparation now has started to offer highlights from its repertoire via ITALive: live performances in Amsterdam are shared online, subtitled in English and French, tickets are Euro 12,50.

Last Sunday, ITA put on the show Kings of War, in a 4,5-hour marathon live stream. Friends were watching. Kings of War brings together three Shakespeare plays ‘‘into one explosive performance about leadership’’, and it was created to be experienced in a dark theatre by an enthralled audience.

Right? So what happens when you put all this in a 4,5-hours live stream?

Well…. it becomes something else. As one of the glowing reviews (in Dutch) said:

this was not just a live stream, this was a full video production, with multiple camera views, in a mix of total shots, close-ups, and medium shots, with crystal clear sound, and details you would otherwise not notice

Digital intimacy, being closer to the actors than you could ever be in a theatre, was an important part of the appeal.

..the production made Kings of War something new, somewhere between a cinematic theatre performance and a recorded play.

And yes, there is indeed a whole new audience for this kind of performance, as reported (in Dutch) by ITA director Wouter van Ransbeek.

Normally, a sold-out performance at the venue is capped at 800 people. ITALive now gets up to 6.000 viewers per show. And it does not stop at sharing live streams to viewers at home. In March, they will perform and live-stream Medea to 2.000 people gathered in a theatre in Taiwan and 1.000 theatre-goers in Australia.

So no surprise there: ITALive is here to stay, also after the lockdown.

Without the cost of travel, hotel, time spent away from work and family, some events see an entirely new audience turn up. The event itself is transformed into a live stream. In essence, a lot of events are turned into… television? Or cinema even! Or into the new cinematographic thing that is being invented right now.

Let’s have a look at another example.

Music festivals online

Music festivals are big in the Netherlands, and ID&T is one of the biggest players, with 80 festivals every year. Just watch 10 seconds of Defqon to get an idea of something that is the ultimate offline experience. Honestly, why bother with something online?

Because you can?

In June, the Defqon Weekend Festival transformed itself into a free 72-hour online broadcast, with 8 million viewers from across the globe. Living rooms became mini campgrounds, Zoom calls showed dancing attendees and the 3-minute end show was all fireworks. (Earlier this year, I interviewed (in Dutch) ID&T’s chief digital officer Michael Guntenaar).

In July, the first edition of Tomorrowland Around the World, the digital festival, took place. Attendance cost €20 for the weekend or €12 for a day ticket, and more than 1 million people tuned in and had a good time. The organization also shared how the event was produced:

Tomorrowland has built four different large green screen studios in Belgium, the USA, Brazil, and Australia. More than 60 artists recorded their performances in those studios.

So real people were involved and did their performance, and almost everything else was digital.

The digital 3D environment of Tomorrowland Around the World has 10 times more polygons and lights compared to a modern computer game. There are more than 750 virtual lamps per stage, all drawn by hand. […] In addition, special effects, spectacular fireworks, impressive laser shows and realistic crowd and sound effects were added to the DJ performances.

They also needed all the qualities of a great TV crew:

On top of the 6 4K Ultra HD cameras, a number of virtual cameras were created per stage, allowing the director to choose up to 38 cameras during the recordings.

Take that one step further, and the event IS a movie. In November, the special hardstyle show Qlimax: The Source took place, with tickets at €9,95. In this case, Qlimax sold around 20.000 tickets to people from 80 different countries. What did you get for that? In the words of the organizers:

Qlimax The Source immerses you into the mystical world of Qlimax through an online audiovisual experience that transforms your home into the temple of hardstyle. […] The combination of the biggest hardstyle acts, brand-new music, and groundbreaking visuals make The Source a unique cinematic harder styles trip.

So, the same thing, music, and visuals shared online in a video stream. And in this case, they did such a good job that, indeed, Netflix picked it up: a 60-minute digital edition of the festival is now available on-demand.

Let’s have a look at the business side of things as well.

Microsoft Build

Going digital: Lessons learned from six months of digital events

Bob Bejan, Corporate Vice President Global Events at Microsoft, recently shared his lessons learned from six months of digital events in a short video. For Microsoft, online events are incredibly effective: an event like Microsoft Build attracted 6200 people in 2019, whereas for the online edition in 2020 no less than 197.000 people joined. ‘’So the scale is crazy larger and it is much more inclusive globally’’. Bejan believes that the digital work they are doing now will be the centerpiece of future live event experiences.

An interesting remark is the one about the cinematic relationship:

‘‘What you are making is not a theatrical presentation…. but instead, a cinematic relationship with the frame that creates a one-on-one conversation with every member of your audience at the same time’’.

A cinematic relationship…. So what developments in the television and cinema industry are relevant for event organizers? Let’s have another look at that in the next newsletter!

Not so random share of the day

From the Top Pop archives, let’s listen to my other hero at the time, Nina Hagen.


Stop reading here if you are only interested in the future of events. I need to wrap up the story! Nothing will stop me now!

So back to Herman Brood, and our days of despair. Months later, @puntmutsaers and I staked out hotel De Swaen in Oisterwijk, following local rumors. When Brood finally came outside with his manager Koos, he invited us to join him in the cafeteria. He ordered himself an uitsmijter and a vodka-jus (oh wow, what is an uitsmijter, is what I remember thinking) and drew me an ‘‘Otto’’, like this. Yes!

Van Dusseldorp's Future of events is an exploration of online & hybrid events - what they are and what they will be. I’d love to hear from you!

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